Erratic weather: Are we prepared?

THE persistent bad weather has been a cause of serious concern for the people. Ever since the September deluge sank Srinagar and swept wide swathes of South and North Kashmir besides the areas in Jammu, the weather has hardly stabilized. First, we had an extended winter with frequent spells of rains and snows. The precipitation continued through spring as well. In April we almost had a deluge redux. The two day rain bloated Jhelum and swelled streams. It washed away steel bridges, cracked open metalled roads and made concrete houses collapse. But just when Jhelum was about to breach its banks and spill over into Srinagar the rain stopped. Ever since, the Valley has had many narrow escapes. The weather has continued to be uncertain. So much so, that even the summer now looks set to be washed away. Any expectations that the season ahead will be different have been dispelled by the intermittent rains over the past two weeks. Valley has been in the throes of the furious short spells of the rain, overhung by the days of cloudy sky or visited by windstorms. What is more, adding to the freakishness of the situation, many areas have witnessed cloudbursts which has caused the loss of life. In the village Kulan in Kangan alone, the cloudburst killed five people. Some areas in South Kashmir have already faced flood-like situation. In Srinagar, the  frequent rainfall has been a source of unmitigated panic. Most residents fear Jhelum might catch them off guard as it had done last September. Same is true for the businesses. Everytime the rains linger on and a flood-like situation develops, there is a voluntary evacuation from the posh colonies of Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Gogji Bagh etc. Markets like Lal Chowk and Hari Singh High  Street, the city’s commercial hubs. This forces shopkeepers to quickly relocate their merchandise.  The lack of drainage in the city has created its own problems. A one hour downpour submerges the streets rendering them unfit for traffic. This only reinforces the pathetic state of affairs prevailing in the Valley eleven months after the flood and underlines yet again that we are no more better prepared for the flood than we were when the city was drowned. An uninterrupted two-day long spell is likely to swell Jhelum and again breach its banks. So, government can’t be found waiting for such an extreme situation to first arise. There have to be measures on war footing to avert a repeat of last September.  

Unlike the previous government which blamed the unprecedented nature of the floods for its sheer  inability to  deal with the situation, this government will have no such excuse. So, we need the administration to gear up. There has to be a round the clock monitoring of the situation and, what is really important, people have to be kept informed about the rising level of Jhelum. Since it took over on March 1, a very real prospect of fresh floods is the recurrent major challenge facing this government.   And it has got ample time to prepare for such a prospect. It cannot afford to fail. 

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